Rewinding the Anger


After many months of circling around a sore-spot of unsettled anger, stuck on the irresolvable fine-points where I felt I'd been wronged, I'm finally moving on.

Thanks, Mars retrograde, for returning me to the scene of the crime… though I doubt you would've brought me there, had I not so eagerly sought some movement in my emotions.

Sitting on unresolved hurt, as if proud to be the last one standing staunchly atop the grudge, is not my style. Not if I can help it. Such stagnant pools of unprocessed sludge turn poisonous over time.

You can recognize the symptoms of contamination when a sheer mention of the impugned offender instantly ignites a heated reaction, zero to sixty in six seconds flat, and you haven't even seen them in so long, it might as well be ancient history… yet here we are again, aggravated as if this all happened just yesterday, those same infractions and indictments right on the tip of your tongue, ready to be rattled off in defense of your position.

You quietly acknowledge its penetration of your psyche by how guarded you quickly become whenever a new situation even slightly resembles that former formative upset… and though you may have 'saved' yourself from exposure to another triggering incident, you've also held yourself back from unfettered immersion in life, for you'll never know what you missed out on here and now while again replaying your response to something that already happened. It's totally understandable, though also disappointing.

The odd irony Mars retrograde presents, as it presses our familiar trigger-spots: We attentively rewind into our anger—playing it back at a slowed-down speed, studying each frame, re-experiencing the causal chain of one dastardly deed or pernicious remark leading to the sensation of ouch! I've been harmed—in order to hopefully stop replaying that one scarring snippet, utterly misleading in its partiality, once and for all.

Our defenses are up. Our tempers are short. A supposedly innocent joke, loud music coming from next door, another driver's poorly-considered lane-change… and suddenly we are enraged. We might not at first recognize the link between this moment's situation-specific tantrum and the subterranean pool of latent anger it draws its power from. Funny, too, because we certainly recognize it in other people, in those instances where something we've said or done sets them off (in a manner way disproportionate to our alleged sin, we may reassure ourselves) and we can calmly, if not smugly, observe how they're clearly upset about far more than what we just did.

When we're in it, all we're able to experience is what's right here right now; no distance, no context.

Just like its retrograde freezes Mars in a particular zone of the zodiac far longer than is comfortable, so too we must stay with our anger if we wish to reunite with its roots, follow its bread-crumbs down the dotted line between then and now, integrate its imprint into our conscious self-knowledge. This doesn't mean staying angry with whatever external episode or contributing character has most lately poked our hornet's-nest. The anger comes from within.

We 'stay' with it by not settling for the first, easiest, or most obvious interpretation or action-plan. We instead ask ourselves questions about why this particular person or incident provokes us as fiercely as it does. We compare this moment with other moments when our anger similarly flared up, in just this particular way. What do they have in common?

Who taught us to feel affronted by this particular behavior in others? Whose anger might we have inadvertently acquired, and are now passing off as our own? What other frustrations—perhaps about whatever in our lives isn't presently functioning as we'd like, or what we don't have any control over—does this discharge bleed into?

If circumstances allow, we may even have the fortunate chance to revisit the events which originally stirred this unprocessed anger (as I did), reencountering the characters and/or situations from before, only with today's hindsight perspective. (As I've mentioned before, there's a direct correlation between whatever's being brought up by Mars's retrograde now and any challenges we faced mid-last-year, when Saturn retrograded through this same sector of early-Sagittarius/late-Scorpio.) Contrary to what the oversimplifying logic of 'don't look back, just look forward' might tell us, we often can't leave the past behind until we've carefully reviewed the historical record… in the process, also taking responsibility for how we might've done our part (no matter how small or insignificant its contributing influence) differently.

We make the humbling admissions. We again run through what happened, in dialogue with players who might hold additional insight or a divergent viewpoint. We identify places where our initial anger may've been misdirected, perhaps because, at that point, we weren't ready to aim it where it deserved to go, due to blind devotion or a conflicted heart. The lapse of time also reveals cracks in our prior loyalties… vulnerable places where, painful though it may be, some individuating act is called for, to close the relational breach and refortify our personal boundaries.

We relive the emotions, in reverse. The familiar anger rises first… and then, just beneath, if we've dared to stay with it, opens the source-wound around which our defensive aggression rose, to ward off further injury, to enact revenge, hurt 'em before they can hurt you again, and now everybody's hurting. The same bodily sensations, mirroring the emotions, reappear. Another morsel of bait is lain before us, and, as we ponder its tempting beckon, we realize, 'I know this fight. I've fought it before. How might I fight it more conclusively… seal off all potential for a lack-of-resolution to noxiously linger?'

We fight the same fight over and over until we masterfully uncover what's really at stake for us—and find a way to provide it to ourselves, without any expectations on anyone else.

For me, it was enough to be listened to, heard, and validated by someone who'd been through it… to learn they'd seen it coming at me, but knew there was nothing they could do to stop it… to be told it was okay it took me this long to get over it… to offer my overdue apologies to those I behaved dishonorably towards, and to gratefully receive their grace… to confront a hidden thread of anger I hadn't properly identified until now, so righteously indignant had I been about the more conspicuous ones… and, just now, to finally begin to proceed toward where these emerging realizations point. For me, that's moving on.